Television, divorces and the Vietnam War are key factors behind an "alarming and unexplained" increase in mass murders and psychotic killers in the United States, says a Stanford University expert.
Many disturbed people who are potential murderers are allowed to roam through "psychiatric ghettos" in urban areas rather than being treated, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Donald Lunde said in an interview.
Multiple and mass murders in the United States have risen dramatically during the last 10 to 20 years, said Lunde, who was an expert witness in the trials of Patty Hearst, Dan White and the Hillside Strangler.
The Vietnam War may be partly to blame, he said, because "we sent an incredible number of young men to war who gained experience in killing people."
He also noted that "TV has a significant effect on aggressive behavior," and that "in the under-12 age group, TV is the single most common activity except for sleeping."
A possible result of that, he said, might be the fact that young people, including girls, are murdering on a scale never before known in American history.
Lunde said he is convinced that the breakup of so many American families is another major cause of violence. "Most murderers are not career criminals, but people who have gotten into difficulties in their human relationships."
Besides more serial murders, Lunde said, there also has been an increase in the number of seriously psychotic killers.
"There are psychiatric ghettos" in urban areas such as New York's Times Square and San Francisco's Tenderloin, where "mentally disturbed people wander around saying strange things and listening to voices."
These people should be in state hospitals rather than being allowed to roam, he said.
"We are in a class by ourselves in murder," Lunde said. In 1984, for example, there were 12,500 murders committed with handguns in the United States, compared to 22 in Japan and 28 in Britain.